Tessa Hawthorn is the Partner at LUNA, a startup studio that helps founders launch and grow ventures by offering legal, accounting and education.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I’m a Partner at LUNA: a startup studio that exists to help founders launch and grow tech companies by offering legal, accounting and education services. Under the very broad title of Partner, I lead the Legal team, all aspects of People and Culture and project manage multiple initiatives under what we call Operations.
I began my career in a traditional legal environment, specialising in family law and litigation. After some soul searching on a year long trip overseas, I moved back to Melbourne and went in-house to a leading property tech startup.
I fell in love with innovation and the fast-paced, dynamic environment I found myself within. I immediately took notice of how the company built a culture and how that culture drove performance, which in hindsight was the beginning of my journey into the world of People & Culture.
Over my career I’ve also acted as an Executive Legal Advisor to TedxMelbourne, a facilitator and speaker and an investor in LUNA’s ventures arm.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I’m either meeting heavy, or I have the day blocked out to get on top of client work.
Tomorrow I’m starting early with a ‘mentor matching’ event for Startup Bootcamp Accelerator. Acting as mentor I’ll meet the startups selected for the program to work out with whom I’ll be best matched.
I then have a daily company wide check-in over Zoom, where we touch base and have a laugh before the day begins. At 10am I have one of two weekly WIP (work in progress) meetings with my team – we work on really tight deadlines and use those meetings to make sure the workload is spread evenly and we’re on track to deliver to our clients.
Mid morning, I have a monthly People & Culture catch up with our Head of Programs who has recently started collaborating with me in this space- we’re working out which HR and social initiatives we need to focus on for the month. That meeting is followed by a broader leadership team meeting, which has been called to deal with a couple of specific issues.
In the afternoon I have two client meetings and with any luck I’ll address my inbox, action some work and log off by about 6 or 7pm.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
I joined LUNA in its infancy – when it was just the Founder and a couple of graduates helping out. We are now 18 people strong and have built our business around flexible work practices.
All of our team can choose when and where they work on a daily basis. We also felt pretty chuffed about setting ourselves up to allow every team member to have autonomy over their days and work practices but it actually gave us a competitive advantage when the pandemic hit and we all had to re-shuffle to work from home.
Suddenly our Asana, Slack and G-Suite set up wasn’t just a nice-to-have but a need-to-have. All the team had to do was come into the office and grab their monitors!
The flexibility also means that life doesn’t have to happen outside the hours of 9am to 5pm – appointments, exercise, or just simply choosing to work when you feel the most productive means a happier, healthier team and really high retention of our people.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
For me, that means trying to harness periods of intense productivity and output – because those periods inevitably don’t last forever and then being kind to myself when I’m not working at my peak level.
In a similar vein, it means not setting unrealistic goals – because if you do, it ceases to be balance, as pursuit of those goals can take over.
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t challenge ourselves. To use the language we’ve adopted at LUNA – we should always be working in a place of ‘stretch’ but not of ‘panic’.
It also means taking care of myself mentally and physically. If I don’t put in the work to be physically active every day, everything else suffers.
5) What do you think are some of the best habits or routines that you’ve developed over the years to help you achieve success in your life?
I mean, it all sounds very stock standard but – going to bed at the same(ish) time every night, reading (even if just for 10-15 minutes) before bed, exercise in the morning and regular walking breaks during the day. And lots of water.
All of that being said, I’ve definitely had a few weeks during lockdown where I haven’t put those practices in place and I’m now more sure than ever that they are completely essential!
6) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?
Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead is pretty much my leadership bible.
I also regularly read (and carry with me whenever I travel) an anthology of poems called Staying Alive, edited by Neil Astley. I find there’s always something new to discover in it. Reading from it regularly, keeps me grounded to something I love that has absolutely nothing to do with my work!
7) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Obama. No question.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Find a place to work where you can be yourself. If you don’t have that, ‘work-life balance’ will always mean having to put one down to pick the other up and that’s a pretty exhausting way to live.
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